Shakil Hussain, president of Windspeed Technologies, explains all about his invention, SkyDeck
What is the SkyDeck?
The aim was to create the next exciting experiential in-flight entertainment for VIP aircraft owners and the airline industry. It is a system designed to provide an exhilarating view of the aircraft’s external environment while in flight, from a safe semi-external location. For the airlines, it could be an additional source of revenue, as passengers could be charged on a pay-per-view basis.
There are several combinations of design features that can be incorporated into the SkyDeck. For example, either an elevator or a staircase can be incorporated, and either a single- or two-seat platform can be specified.
What aircraft types would it be available for?
The SkyDeck can be installed on a wide variety of aircraft, ranging from wide-bodies to smaller executive jets.
What inspired the design?
Current in-flight entertainment offerings have not changed much over the decades. We wanted to come up with a product that would provide a higher level of entertainment to reduce the boredom of long flights.
How far along are you with this project? What feasibility studies have you done?
Conceptual designs of the different versions have been completed and the SkyDeck is currently patent pending. It has taken us over a year to design the details, including conducting feasibility studies in all aspects of the system which have included structural modifications, loading, system integration, interior modifications, aerodynamics and certification requirements.
To what extent does the design affect the aircraft’s aerodynamics and weight?
The initial concerns were the potential interference with the aircraft’s tail performance. Studies have shown that a teardrop canopy design and engineering the optimum height of the canopy mitigates that concern. Wind tunnel tests will be performed when needed.
As with any installation, there will be an increase in the aircraft’s weight. The amount will depend on the version of SkyDeck. However, for wide-body VIP aircraft, the total MTOW with the SkyDeck installed will still be way lower than the aircraft’s original design MTOW and therefore weight increase will not be an issue in this case.
How would you ensure safety and what material would the canopy be made from?
The SkyDeck will be designed to withstand all load conditions, including flight loads and birdstrike impact loads. We are currently in talks with a major aircraft canopy manufacturer, which will design, build, test and supply the canopies, fully certified and ready-to-install.
What other factors have to be taken into account?
The problem of condensation on the canopy surface, which could cause fogging, will be resolved with the application of an anti-condensation film on the surface of the canopy, according to the canopy manufacturer. In addition, the canopies will also come with a UV-resistant coating. The requirements of ingress/egress by the certifying authorities will be built into the design of every SkyDeck.
How much would it cost?
To pinpoint a price tag on the SkyDeck at this stage requires the consideration of several factors, including the aircraft type, the SkyDeck version chosen and the quantity of orders. The staircase version would generally cost less. However, current estimates are between US$8-25m installed and certified.
Will you perform the modification?
Windspeed Technologies will provide the engineering data package to the completion center and work with them throughout each installation.
What are the next steps in bringing this to market?
We are currently looking for strategic partners who would be interested in marketing the SkyDeck globally.